I think the tag is a meta tag. In The Death of Meta Tags, we see:

The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.).

It's this last idea that tipped me off to the possibility that we were looking at a meta tag: reality check is a kind of question, but does not describe the content of the question. Now, the article goes on to list two tests for metaness of tags. First:

  1. If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are useless by themselves — they tell you nothing at all about the content of the question (in addition to a system tag, .

I'm pretty positive that fails this test, again, because it doesn't describe the content of the question. A reality check question must have other tags describing the content we are supposed to be reality checking (in addition to a system tag, see Is the Only-Tag Test for meta-tag-ness broken here?).

The second test:

  1. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag. In a cruel, ironic twist, the meaning of the tag [subjective] itself … is actually subjective. Ditto for [best-practices] and [beginner]. Best practices to whom? Beginner by what criteria? These tags are impossible to define by anything remotely resembling an objective metric. In comparison, the the meaning of tags like [java], [c#], and [javascript] are crystal clear to all but the nuttiest of nutbags.

I'm not sure it fails this particular test. 8 out of the 9 questions asked do seem to use the tag in a manner consistent with its description. Only one question uses it in a "am I understanding this right?" kind of way.

So I'm not sure about test two, but I am pretty darn certain that this tag fails test one. It definitely cannot be the only tag on a question, and it just describes a question type, rather than describing the content the question concerns.

Should we burninate ?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding test 1: Is the Only-Tag Test for meta-tag-ness broken here? establishes that when we consider the only-tag test, we consider instead the question “does this make sense as the only tag in addition to a system tag?”. For example, it doesn't make sense to ask about [feats] on its own, but the [feats] tag passes the test if we consider a system tag of [dnd-4e] [feats]. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Still no, I think. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 12:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov agreed. I couldn't find or think of a single example where this tag and a system tag would be enough to describe a question, you'd always need a third tag to describe what kind of mechanic exactly is targetted by the reality check. So it probably still fails test 1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Apparently it's a GURPS thing, so I wonder if someone with experience in that system can weigh in. This isn't the first meta question about this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Laurel Perhaps, and if it's a GURPS thing, it needs to be made a GURPS thing on the site. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The oldest reference I know is a GURPS thing, but I have repeatedly encountered it in discussions of non-GURPS games. Whether that is because it has grown wider, or because the same idea was invented independently in many different fandoms, I don't know. It still relates to topics whose content deals of comparing an in-game (or sometimes in-story) event to what would be plausible, possible, likely, or the like in real life. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @vicky_molokh-unsilenceMonica But if it describes a particular mechanic or rule or something relating to GURPS specifically, then in that use case, it isn't a meta tag - it is a tag describing that feature of GURPS, and should be used for questions about that feature of GURPS. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I wouldn't call it a mechanic. I think as a descriptor of question content it has more in common with, say, gm-techniques or game-design or roleplaying or even statistics, but relatively little with purely mechanical tags. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me like there's a distinction between reality-check and those questions. Questions on RPG.SE with those tags are asking about GM techniques, game design, or statistics... but questions with the [reality-check] tag weren't asking about "reality checks" – they were basically doing a "reality check" (which made it a "meta-tag", since they're describing the "type" of question rather than its content). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm expecting that the contents of a question with the tag would include at least one comparison of an in-game phenomenon with a real-world one, much as the contents of a statistics question will include at least one distribution of probabilities mentioned (hypothetical or actual), and similar parallels with the other examples of tags. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2022 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


Burn it either way

I don't know whether it should be considered a meta tag, but looking at the questions using it I don't think it's a good tag. They largely fall into two categories:

  1. Questions about game rules, motivated by "that doesn't make sense in reality" e.g. How does Crown of Stars interact with Greater Invisibility? isn't needed here; a question can describe specific ways or reasons for being confused, and answers should try to address the specific problems faced by the asker. The tag doesn't really help with that process.
  2. Questions about reality, motivated by game mechanics e.g. Spherical Diamond Phylactery. These questions aren't really about RPGs, and would be better asked somewhere else. These are mostly already closed anyway; the only exception seems like it may have avoided closure mainly because it got a good answer saying "don't look at reality, look at game mechanics".

One additional category is "questions about GURPS" which seems to have "reality check" as a named mechanic/design concept. The tag could be redefined as referring to this specific concept (perhaps renamed to so people don't just add it to stuff without reading the definition), however since there are only 2 questions fitting this it might just not be necessary. I am not at all familiar with GURPS, so if someone thinks the "reality check" from that system is a clearly defined thing that warrants a dedicated tag then I'm not opposed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, there's this comment on the question that created the tag: " A "reality check" is (or at least used to be) one of the core principles of GURPS -- used to check whether a rule or ruling made sense. Perhaps they're irrelevant with the emphasis on "cinematic" play in recent editions, add-ons, and "powered by GURPS" publications. To me, the question appears to be as much about "would this even work" as it is about "how can I model this in-game."" \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Oct 4, 2022 at 22:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE GURPS books had also been used as primers for history students at some point, because they did give the best overview. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 4, 2022 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looking over it some more, it seems like "reality-check" for GURPS plays a similar role to "Spells do what they say they do" in DnD 5e - it's a principle for interpreting rules, situations, and items. We don't have a tag for that, and I don't think we need one for [gurps-reality-check]. It'd be great to have a GURPS expert confirm this though! \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Oct 4, 2022 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it really is a heuristic for rulings in the vein of "spells do what they say they do", then that's an additional reason to burn it: it's an attempt to steer the answers rather than a meaningful description of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Oct 12, 2022 at 3:13

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